Gun show loophole bills far from slam dunk

Gun show loophole bills far from slam dunk

Two weeks ago, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, surrounded by the families of Virginia Tech shooting victims, announced his support for legislation to close what has come to be known as Virginia’s “gun show loophole.” Creigh Deeds, state senator representing Charlottesville, who recently announced his run for governor in 2009, has opposed such legislation in the past.

Though a story in The Roanoke Times reported that Deeds has not changed his mind on closing the loophole, Deeds has backed away from such a firm stance on an issue that is one big potential shit storm in a statewide election.

State Senator Creigh Deeds has “an open mind” on whether the gunshow purchasing loophole should be closed.

“I’ve got an open mind on this bill,” says Deeds, a member of the courts of justice committee, slated to vote on the bill January 21. The bill, introduced in the Senate, requires private sellers to run criminal background checks on buyers. “I’m going to listen to the testimony and gather information to learn as much as I can.”

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Senator Henry Marsh, also further defines a firearm show vender as anyone not licensed as a Virginia gun dealer who sells, offers to sell, transfers or trades any firearm at a gun show. A similar House bill was killed in committee January 18.

The gun show loophole gained national attention after the Virginia Tech shootings, even though Seung-Hui Cho didn’t purchase his guns at gun shows. Deeds says that he is worried that closing the loophole would miss addressing the problems of gun violence and crime while setting a dangerous precedent.

“What I worry about is that we will do something and not actually accomplish much,” says Deeds. “I worry about something that’s more smoke than fire.

“My concern is that if we establish a precedent for private transactions requiring a background check, we set a precedent. And unless we have the data to support that a significant number of these transactions occur at gun shows and a significant number of those guns are linked to crime…we’ve got to have the data to back it up.”

Though the bill defines transactions within a “firearms show,” including parking lots, Deeds wants to find out how many of the 40 to 45 percent of firearm transactions involving unlicensed sellers actually occur at shows.

“I’m not sure intellectually there’s much difference,” between deals made inside and outside a gun show, he says. “If we’re going to make that distinction, I want to make sure we’re being intellectually honest about it.”

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